Trouble Under The Waves

Climate change is too big a villain for Schwarzenegger

Film Review | by Jorge Ignacio Castillo

Wonders of the Sea
RPL Film Theatre

March 29–31

Arnold Schwarzenegger has many assets: screen presence, environmental awareness and the ability to make fun of himself to great effect. His voice, however, is problematic. It’s stilted, coarse and thickly accented. It’s no accident Arnie is at his best when his lines are few and far between.

Why do Schwarzenegger’s dulcet tones matter? Well, he not only produced the documentary Wonders of the Sea — he’s also the narrator. A glaring mistake if you’ve ever heard of one.

Arnie doesn’t even have a good script to work with. For every remarkable visual captured by  Jean-Michel (son of Jacques) Cousteau, there’s a trite line of dialogue that undercuts it. That’s not the only problem: while the film’s ultimate purpose is to give the general public a look at creatures seldom photographed, the outcome feels meandering and scattered.

A good portion of Wonders of the Sea is spent in coral reefs, which mankind is decimating at an extraordinary rate (20 per cent is now irreversibly lost). Home to an immense variety of marine life — from plankton to giant clams to scary nocturnal dwellers­ — the sights are as unexpected as breathtaking. A shot of migrating hammer sharks almost justifies the price of admission by itself.

Predictably, the villain of the piece is climate change — such an obvious threat that the existence of deniers is mind-blowing. The film tackles the slaughter of apex predators, which has led to demographic explosions of creatures like the crown starfish or the lionfish, thus altering ocean ecosystems everywhere.

For those of us who grew up watching Jacques Cousteau’s documentaries, returning to the Calypso is a delight. Wonders of the Sea has its heart in the right place. Just get better writers next time.